This date in history: July 18, 1994 – Candiotti pitches seven innings in relief in New York

Here’s a look-back to a Tom Candiotti start from July 18, 1994.

After Candiotti posted a 7-7 record with a 4.12 ERA for the L.A. Dodgers in 1994, skeptics said the veteran knuckleballer was washed up.

In those days, unfortunately, people looked mainly at won-loss records and determined that a pitcher “didn’t know how to win” if he did not post a high number of the left side of that column. 

But during that 1994 season, Candiotti was most certainly a valuable pitcher on the Dodgers. And his value was evident during a crucial road trip immediately following the All-Star break, even if it’s been forgotten years later. 

At the All-Star break, the Dodgers sat atop the NL West standings, owning a five-game lead over Colorado and a seven-and-a-half-game cushion over San Francisco. A 13-game post-break road trip followed—with stops in Philadelphia, New York, Montreal, and San Francisco—and that was where Candiotti repeatedly bailed out the Dodgers. He gave the club a quality outing each time out when nobody else seemed capable of providing even five innings. He pitched on short rest and in relief. 

The bullpen was a disaster during the trip, with Todd Worrell (15.75 ERA), Jim Gott (9.39 ERA), Roger McDowell (9.82 ERA), and Omar Daal (5.40 ERA) all pitching poorly. The starters, meanwhile, were not getting it done either, with Pedro Astacio going 0-2 in two starts with a 22.85 ERA while lasting a total of 4.1 innings. Ramon Martinez was 1-2 with a 5.19 ERA in his three starts. Kevin Gross was 0-2 and 6.11 in three starts. Orel Hershiser pitched just once, getting pounded in San Francisco for five runs in five innings. Ismael Valdez, normally a reliever then, made one start and lasted one-plus inning. Candiotti, however, was not part of the problem, posting a 2.60 ERA in four games and working at least six innings each time.

The Giants would get hot and win 13 out of a 16-game stretch, while the Dodgers would go 3-10 on that road trip and see their lead over San Francisco shrink to only a half-game.

Candiotti pitched on July 15 in Philadelphia, throwing a six-inning four-hitter in a 3-2 victory. He was then called upon on this date, July 18, on only two days’ rest in relief because of the ailing staff. 

So, on July 18 in New York, Candiotti was supposed to just be a spectator, but Orel Hershiser had a strained left rib cage muscle and could not start, so Ismael Valdez, a rookie, became the emergency replacement. But Valdez himself had to leave the game after recording just three outs because of a blister. 

In came Candiotti on two days’ rest, and he threw seven relief innings of three-hit baseball and the Dodgers won, 7-6, in 10 innings—after Todd Worell inexplicably blew Candiotti’s 6-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth. 

Candiotti’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO. This was on two days’ rest! The only runs off him came on an RBI groundout in the fourth and two errors in the sixth. The Mets’ other run before the ninth inning came off Valdez.

Once again, it was another example of Candiotti coming up big for the club. For the third straight game, a Dodger starter had not lasted past three frames. First, it was Hershiser taking himself out of a game in Philadelphia during his warm-up pitches because of a muscle strain. Ramon Martinez, the emergency starter that day, was clobbered for nine runs in 4.1 innings. The following day, Pedro Astacio allowed six runs in 2.1 frames as the Dodgers lost three of four to the Phillies (with Candiotti getting the lone win). Then it was the Valdez game against the Mets where the rookie had to leave early, and Candiotti provided seven relief innings.

Here is where baseball’s rules concerning wins and losses are flawed. Candiotti worked seven innings and was effective. Worrell gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in his one inning of work, blowing a three-run lead, and yet he was credited with the win after the Dodgers won it in the 10th. Worrell, the most ineffective pitcher on the night, was credited with the victory just because he was “the pitcher of record,” which wasn’t fair.

Candiotti should have gotten the win. And, of course, going back to what I mentioned at the start, people will look at that 7-7 record and deem him a pitcher who didn’t know how to win. 

Sure, there were some games during the course of the season where he got roughed up, but there were three other no-decisions in 1994 where he went seven or more innings allowing two earned runs or fewer: April 29 against the Mets, May 20 in Cincinnati, and June 21 in San Diego. That’s four extra wins that he should have picked up, and an 11-7 record vs. a 7-7 mark makes a big difference. 

Then, in his next outing after the July 18th no-decision in New York, Candiotti was again outstanding in Montreal—giving up only a sac fly and an RBI single in his seven innings of work—but suffered a 2-0 loss to Jeff Fassero and the Expos. Next up, he took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning in San Francisco, but ran out of gas as the Giants scored four times in the eighth. It didn’t help that the Dodgers scored just one run against Bill Swift. Take those games in Montreal and San Francisco and say that if he had gotten more support, his record would have been 13-6—not a measly 7-7.  

I mean, he just didn’t have any luck. Yes, he ended with a 4.12 ERA. But c’mon. Didn’t Storm Davis win 19 games with a 4.36 ERA in 1989? Jack Morris win 21 games with a 4.04 ERA in 1992? Bill Gullickson, 20 wins in 1991 with a 3.90 ERA?

Tom Candiotti never had a year like that where his team scored a lot of runs for him to be able to rack up a bunch of victories. On this date, July 18, 1994, the Dodgers scored enough runs and Candiotti came through with seven magnificent relief innings. But Worrell blew it.

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